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The New England Water Science Center (New England WSC) is conducting multiple research projects on per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a class of more than 4,000 chemical compounds.

Hydrologist collecting a soil sample
Hydrologist collecting soil samples for PFAS analysis, Brentwood, New Hampshire.

PFAS chemicals have been in use since the 1940s and are often incorporated into everyday items like carpets and non-stick pans to make them stain- and water-resistant. They can be found in products such as cosmetics, food packaging, paints, papers, and water-resistant textiles and clothing.

The strong carbon-fluorine bonds in PFAS and long half-lives of some of the compounds allow them to endure in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, bioaccumulate over time, and have earned them the name of “forever chemicals”. Despite their long-term use, PFAS have come under rigorous scrutiny after links to adverse health effects have become clearer. PFAS prevalence in the environment, drinking water, wildlife, and human blood has spurred additional research on properties, sources, and potential health consequences.

The New England WSC contributed to the 2022 strategic science vision document on PFAS monitoring, assessment, and research that outlines the current gaps in PFAS science and the opportunities for additional USGS study. 

Current research on PFAS at the New England WSC spans fate, transport, exposure, and health effects of the compounds. Our partners include the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, and the U.S. Air Force Civil Engineer Center. Our work is also supported by USGS Programs including the Toxic Substances Hydrology Program, the Environmental Health Program, the Contaminant Biology Program, and the National Water Quality Program.

Click here to learn more about New England WSC’s contributions to PFAS research: Research on Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in the New England Water Science Center | U.S. Geological Survey (




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